Code Switching in Multilingual Intercultural Business Negotiation

Germany is one of the largest investors in Lithuania and the export levels of Lithuanian products to Germany are also increasing consistently, therefore Lithuanian and Lithuanian-based international companies need experts who can demonstrate high multilingual and intercultural competences. In the increasingly popular intercultural training events participants often mention problems related with coping with intercultural interactions and communicative situations, both during the in-house specialist meetings as well as during complex intercultural, often multilingual, negotiation discussions.
In the present study multilingual intercultural business negotiation will be analyzed using examples of a selected multilingual conversation with the focus on the structure and functions of Code Switching. The evaluation of the authentic audio material and the determination of the type of conversation “business negotiations” was based on the view that this is a communication situation in which the participants want to reach an agreement based on different objectives (“A has a goal X, X is controlled by B”; “a sales talk becomes a negotiation if one participant tries to connect the sale with other goals of the interactants”; Wagner 1995, in: Brünner 2000:150).
In the first step of the analysis the structure of the selected conversation needs to be established in order to determine whether the goal (or the partial goal) of the conversation is achieved. This also involves determining the multilingualism structure through which the discussion goal is achieved, such as the number of language changes. Following the sequence of language changes, it will be microanalytically investigated as to who changes the language locally, in which way and for what purpose, i.e. what special purpose the respective local language change serves against the background of the general discussion goal, thus, which institutional or intercultural contextualization hints are realized (Apfelbaum, Meyer, 2010). The aim is to determine how the participants help each other to achieve the overarching goal of the conversation through different types of language changes.
The sample analysis refers to the theoretical-methodological approaches of Schegloff, Kallmeyer, Blom, Gumperz, Arminnen, Günthner, Auer, etc., whereby a special importance is attached to studies that deal with language change especially from the point of view of conversation analysis (Blom and Gumperz, 1972; Gumperz, 1982; Auer, 1984; David, 2003; Auer and Eastman, 2010).


Apfelbaum, B., Meyer, B. (2010): Multilingualism at Work : From policies to practices in public, medical and business settings. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Arminen, I. (2005): Institutional Interaction: Studies of Talk at Work. Directions In: Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. Taylor & Francis.

Auer, P. (1984): On the meaning of conversational code-switching. In P. Auer & A. di Luzio (eds.) Interpretive Sociolinguistics: Migrants – Children – Migrant Children: 87–112. Narr.

Auer, P., Eastman, C. E. (2010): Code-Switching. Handbook of Pragmatics. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Blom, J., Gumperz, J. (1972): Social Meaning in Linguistic Structure: Code switching in Norway. In: Directions in sociolinguistics. John J. Gumperz und Dell Hymes, 407-34. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Günthner, S. (2016): Kulturwissenschaftliche Orientierung in der Gesprächsforschung. In: Sprache - Kultur - Kommunikation / Language - Culture - Communication. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. doi:
Günthner, S., Linke, A. (2006): Linguistik und Kulturanalyse – Ansichten eines symbiotischen Verhältnisses / Linguistics and cultural analysis – aspects of a symbiotic relationship. Zurich Open Repository and Archive.

Gumperz, J. J. (1970): Verbal Strategies in Multilingual Communication. Working Paper Nr. 36 Language-Behavior Research Laboratory. University of California, Berkeley.

Heritage, J (2005): Conversation Analysis and Institutional Talk. In Handbook of language and social interaction. LEA's communication series, Kristine L. Fitch (Hg.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Kallmeyer, W., Schütze, F. (1976): Konversationsanalyse. In: Studium. Linguisitk, 1–28.

Mondada, L. (2012): The dynamics of embodied participation and language choice in multilingual meetings. Language in Society, 41(2), 213-235. doi:10.1017/S004740451200005X

Schegloff, E. A. (2007): Sequence organization in interaction. A primer in conversation analysis. Band 1. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Zentella, A. C. (1997): Growingupbilingual: Puerto Rican children in. NewYork. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.

See also: Poster